To provide a Christian based, individualized program of core academic instruction infused with age appropriate social skill/character development, health/safety, home management, community education and experience, career skill preparation, on-site job coaching, and recreational pursuits; essential elements for independence, career, and home management success for students in kindergarten - adolescents/young adults that are differently abled.
In life, we never stop learning…
For our students, learning may be an ongoing challenge. Continuing, individualized, education in core academics, interspersed with sensory integration, life skills, and the arts, enables our students from grades K through young adulthood to continue to work on and improve their skills and confidence in reading, writing, calculation, decision making, and communicating, thereby increasing their success and positive experiences in the community, workplace, and social relationships; building a positive pathway to progress, happiness, and greater independence.
Pathway to Independence Ages 18 - Young Adult
Full and Part-Time Programs
Before and After School Programs
....and so much more!
We accept the McKay Scholarship, Hope & Gardiner Scholarships
Visit us at: 331 Lake Ave, Maitland, FL 32751
ABOUT the Founders of Celandine Life-Prep Academy, Inc.
Board of Directors Welcome,
From the teaching team, co-founder/principal Kristen Peterson, and parents/educators of Maitland Academy, comes a non-profit educational venture developed to further meet the evolving needs of our exceptional students/children as they enter Elementary, Middle School, High School, post High School, and into Adulthood.
Kristen Peterson M.S. Ed , ESE
While pursuing a Bachelors degree in Psychology, I worked full time with developmentally disabled adults with varying exceptionalities, for the Long Island Developmentally Disabled Services Office. In 1998, I received a Bachelors degree in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from St. Josephs College in Patchogue, New York. I planned to pursue a career upon relocation with my son, William, from Long Island, New York to Orlando, Florida, in social work.
Like many parents of children who are diagnosed with autism, I began to notice behavioral changes and loss of speech in my son at age 15 months. After repeated insistence that something was “wrong” with my baby boy, my pediatrician agreed to refer him for an evaluation. In the year 2000, my son William was diagnosed with severe autism. The psychologist told me that he would never speak. After the shock and disbelief subsided (and a really deep breath) I decided that the doctor’s were wrong. My son would speak and much more and I was determined to do what ever I had to do to make that happen. I began researching autism and decided that the best way to help my son was to change careers from social work to teaching students with special needs. To further my education, I also returned to school and in 2001, received a MS degree in Exceptional Student Education.
After teaching for 3 years in the public school system, I began working as a Curriculum and Resource Specialist. In constant pursuit of the latest research, educational and assessment methods, I also returned to school to pursue an EdS degree in Curriculum Instruction and Management. My experience as a teacher, continuing education student, and curriculum and resource specialist taught me a great deal about education and assessment. It also taught me that the majority of curricula and assessment available for my students’ was not designed to meet their individual needs and learning styles. I began developing individualized curricula, assessment programs, and education workshops to better meet the needs of my son, and my students.
In 2004, I decided that it was time for my dream of an optimal learning environment for my son and other students with special needs to come true. I began working diligently with friends who were educators and parents of children with autism.
In January of 2006, I met Antonia Llull. Fifteen minutes into the meeting, Antonia and I were completing each other’s sentences. Together we realized that we could bring our dreams for children with special needs to fruition.
In August of 2007, Antonia and I opened Maitland Academy to 16 students grades K-5 with special needs. Our staff consisted of trained educators who also had children with special needs enrolled in the school.
I have seen our students and my own oldest son, William grow into adolescents and young adults. Adolescence is such a challenge but each new challenge presents another opportunity to learn. With every opportunity to learn comes a new solution to tailor and share with another child/parent/teacher. With constantly developing opportunities, I realized a new direction was needed for our MS and HS. In the spring of 2013, we began working on the development of Celandine Life-Prep Academy as a non-profit, educational institute specifically dedicated to children grades 6-12 and into adulthood.
We want to make sure that our students' dreams, whatever they may be, are always a possibility. We started Celandine Life-Prep Academy to make sure that even if we are no longer here, our children and other children with disabilities will have ongoing educational, vocational, and life-skill building support for as long as they need it. Our goal is to continue to evolve with the needs of our students by creating more opportunities for them to become independent, self-supporting, members of their community.
In 2015, we made the decision to expand our program to include elementary age students and offer our programs within a Christian environment. We began to look for a new location to expand our programming. In the spring of 2016 after searching for a new location for over a year, at the suggestion of a parent, we scheduled a meeting with Reverend Sarah Broncos of The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, in Maitland. After reading a book about a child with autism who found her voice, Reverend Sarah had prayed for the opportunity to help a school with special needs students. After full approval and incredible support from the City of Maitland, we moved to the campus in June of 2016 and are now able to have weekly chapel services, on-campus vocational training, and on-campus trade skills! Our students are training to be acolytes and ushers and they absolutely love it!
On a personal note, my son William is now 23! He graduated in May with a special diploma and has continued to intern in our school office. He is amazing at filing, shredding, organizing, updating the calendar to add appointments, scheduling, writing receipts, etc.. He is a great assistant to the staff and students as well. He now prefers to be called "Mr. William". He also continues to work a part-time job! He continues to amaze me daily! He continues to be my inspiration. I am so blessed to be surrounded and supported by knowledgeable and compassionate staff. I am truly honored to be entrusted with the education of so many beautiful boys and girls, with differing and amazing abilities!
Thank you and God Bless.
Kristen Peterson, M.S. Ed, ESE
Principal/Co-founder of Celandine Life-Prep Academy
Every one therefore that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, who built his house upon rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house: and it fell not: for it was founded upon the rock. Matthew 7:24-25
Cynthia Lebron-Torres, M.S. Ed, ESE
Co-Founder, ESE Teacher, Board Member
I am the proud and happy mother of two boys. Soon after I finished college I had my oldest boy and 23 months later I had my youngest one. As months passed by I noticed something was not right with my little one. I kept comparing milestones of my oldest son with him. I would take him almost weekly to his pediatrician trying to confirm my concerns. But no, he would say “every child is different, give him time”. We moms have that sense that would tell us when something is not right and when we should act immediately, and so I did. In August of 2000, I moved from Puerto Rico to Orlando, Florida seeking a professional, second opinion for my son. As soon we moved, he was diagnosed with PDD-NOS and then eventually with cortical dysplasia with autism features. The cortical dysplasia caused my son to develop a seizure disorder. Once he was diagnosed, he started therapy and early intervention services.
The road ahead did not look easy but I decided that I would do everything within my power to provide the best for my son in order to help him reach his fullest potential. Since he started school I became his advocate, there has not been a school that he attended, that I have not worked for. I started working as a volunteer at his school and eventually I was offered a job as an ESE teacher assistant for OCPS. In 2004 I started working as a teacher assistant for a charter school specialized in education for students with special needs and a few months later I was offered a teaching position. Since then I have been teaching students with special needs and varying exceptionalities. Teaching is my passion and is something I truly enjoy. It became my priority to expand my knowledge in teaching techniques in order to keep providing an excellent education to my students. In 2016, I completed my M.S. Degree in Education.
In 2007 I was offered a teaching position at Maitland Academy. I was honored to work with the Kristen Peterson Co-founder of Maitland Academy and could not agree more with their vision. As a parent I personally experienced all the obstacles to find a place for a child with special needs that would fulfill your academic, sensory and, therapy expectations. I personally knew both of them, Kristen was my mentor when we both worked for the same school years before and Tonina was my son’s OT since he was 2 years old. I felt very excited to be part of such a great team.
For the last seven years I’ve seen how my son has bloomed into a teenager and all the progress he has made. Maitland Academy has provided to my son with a nurturing and safe environment and an education of excellence. Kristen and I are all parents of teenagers with special needs that attended Maitland Academy. As parents we know that their needs change as they are getting closer to adulthood. It is my responsibility as a parent, but also as an educator to make what is necessary to fulfill my son and my students’ needs. For that reason we have come together one more time and decided to give life to Celandine Life-Prep Academy. The future for my son continues to be promising now that we have come together as parents again to make sure we continue meeting the needs of our children.